The Big Issue : Edition 504
THEBIGISSUE5–18FEB2016 13 every passing breath. Unfortunately, I have never had the fortune to happen upon such a temple of silence and I just keep finding myself in classes led by ladies who are even chattier than I am after my fourth shandy. If the noise that came out of them was practical instruction, I wouldn’t mind. Actually, I shouldn’t even object if the talk was neighbourhood gossip, a shopping list, or a recap of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. But to date, it has been my luck only to hear very long and silly treatises on personal and spiritual growth. “We all need to grow!” said the teacher. “We all need to become better, more enlightened beings.” Apparently, there are many masochistic oddballs who like to be reminded in their leisure time of their great need to improve. I am not one of these people. When I want to be reminded of my deficiencies, I call my mother. Otherwise, I do the best I can to dodge the fear that I have not “grown” to the 50th percentile rank of my peers. I have actually spent many years striving not to care at all about such things. It is, of course, impossible to remain in any kind of society and not compare one’s advantages or their lack to others. Nonetheless, I have done what I can to avoid gauging my achievements or non-achievements against any measure. This, in fact, is why I first attended a yoga class. I was assured that this was a non-competitive form of exercise. In fact, this idea is uttered often in the very chatty yoga classes I have had the misfortune to attend. Teachers will say things like, “This is your journey! Don’t compare yourself to others!” or “We are not here to compete!” Such a claim becomes a little hard to brook when you see that the legs that surround you are clad in some very competitively expensive yoga textiles. It becomes actually impossible when a spray- tanned, middle-Australian yogi reminds you, again, of the need to grow. My downward dog starts snarling as soon as I hear this advice. While yoga teachers and other fitness industry spiritualists may insist that there is no need to compare yourself to others, they are urging for you to compare yourself to yourself. Have you grown, Helen? Have you progressed? Have you become the best Helen you can be, and will you always keep striving? Such thoughts are not something I consider a spiritual departure, but just a slightly more Oprahfied version of the torment imposed by the world on an individual from early childhood. The mania for constant self- improvement is something from which I seek respite. I really don’t appreciate paying $17 an hour to outsource the worst work of my subconscious to a lady neatly bound in high-tech fabrics. If you know of a yoga class or, indeed, of any place whatsoever where the need for growth of any sort is frowned upon, please let me know. I have had quite enough of self-improvement. I fancy a relaxing hour of self-deterioration. Perhaps it will involve a shandy. “It is, of course, impossible to remain in any kind of society and not compare one’s advantages or their lack to others.” RAZER Prosperity Without Growth PHOTOGRAPHSBYJAMESBRAUND RECENTLY, I ATTENDED a yoga class and this was a stupid idea on several counts. First, I had given no thought to the qualities of the meal I had eaten the night previous to attendance. I shan’t go into detail, but let’s just say that digestion of a two-cabbage coleslaw is not an unobtrusive matter in a very quiet room. Second, I had given no thought to the fact that I hate yoga. This is not to dismiss a 4000-year-old fitness tradition out of hand. Let me be clear: the stretching part of yoga is fine; it’s even relaxing. The talking part of yoga, however, is generally sufficient to tease out my inner Charles Manson. I am certain there are yoga gatherings where practitioners do not release a droning load of bunkum with » Helen Razer (@helenrazer) is a writer who loves to make meals out of different types of cabbage. She will soon release a cookbook titled Lettuce Eat Cabbage.